Is D.C. the capital of… crazy lawsuits?

People love to complain that D.C. is a dysfunctional city. That may be a bit harsh. Despite the partisan gridlock, sometimes deals can be reached in Congress — for example, the new gun control compromise measure in the Senate.

And the city itself is a much more appealing city to live in these days. The recent, taxpayer-financed boom in D.C. has led to improved restaurants, nightlife, shopping, and residential options. (I used to live in D.C., from 2006 to 2008, and I continue to visit frequently.)

But the lawsuits coming out of the nation’s capital — well, they’re still pretty crazy. Time for some quick updates on the insanity….

The first case is a lawsuit we’ve mentioned before, involving the former attorney general of North Dakota, Nicholas Spaeth. The Blog of the Legal Times reports:

Spaeth sued Georgetown and five other schools after he failed to get an interview through the Association of American Law Schools faculty recruitment conference in 2010.

Georgetown moved for summary judgment, arguing that they had non-discriminatory reasons for rejecting Spaeth, in particular his lack of expressed interest in legal scholarship. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle heard arguments yesterday afternoon.

Hmm, you’d think that a candidate with a “lack of expressed interest in legal scholarship” wouldn’t fare so well in the law professor hiring process. And it also seems like a stretch to sue simply because you failed to get an interview after the AALS conference (known in law prof circles as the “meat market”). Georgetown received 800 applications through the meat market in 2010; claiming discrimination because you were one of the hundreds who didn’t get an interview seems speculative (to put it mildly).

Of course, the discovery process always turns up fun stuff for plaintiffs:

In briefs, Spaeth’s lawyers pointed to an internal university memorandum discussing the need to hire “promising young scholars” and praising the “young cohorts” at peer institutions as an example of bias against older candidates. Hogan Lovells civil litigation partner William Nussbaum, lead counsel for Georgetown, argued today that the word “young” was used as a synonym for “new” and wasn’t proof that Georgetown was against hiring older candidates.

Nussbaum added that Spaeth’s lawyers engaged in “linguistics acrobats” to show that other phrases they identified in evidence related to the school’s hiring process were proof of discrimination in favor of younger candidates, from “pick of the litter” to “enthusiastic.”

Nicholas Spaeth

My gut instinct: younger scholars do better at the meat market because they generally have stronger publications and job talks than older scholars. Many of the older scholars are practitioners looking for a graceful bridge into retirement and not particularly, well, “enthusiastic” about writing law review articles.

But we’ll see what Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle decides to do. She may decide that Georgetown will have to go to trial in order to be vindicated.

Now, on to a matter that’s much, much sexier — quite literally….


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